Neighbourly Home Improvements: the Party Wall

By | October 29, 2009

Party wallIn a perfect world, all houses would be detached and located no closer than 20 metres from the neighbour’s property. Furthermore, all neighbours would be delightful and cheery souls who respect your privacy, consent to all building plans and generally do nothing to upset your utopian living conditions.

Unfortunately, this is not how life works and, whether you like it or not, the chances are that your neighbours will be a touch awkward and disagreeable and, worst of all, they will likely live in an adjoining property.

Indeed, the Party Wall Act 1996 bestows legal obligations on homeowners who share a wall in common. A shared wall is most often that which separates two or more adjoining properties, such as in the case of semi-detached and terraced houses. Party walls in a legal context can also describe walls that are present on boundary lines between properties or any wall against which a neighbour has built another structure. Party walls can also describe many other types of commonly shared walls but, for the purposes of this post, it is necessary only to examine those that are most common: the walls dividing properties.

According to the Party Wall Act 1996, any work that is considered trivial or minor, such as the erection of shelves, replastering or painting, will not require permission from the neighbour. However, if a homeowner wishes to do something of a more substantial nature to the party wall, such as increase its width for soundproofing purposes, extend its height or insert a damp proof course, permission ought to be sought from the neighbour before any such work is undertaken. Indeed, work of this kind must only be carried out after formal notice has been served to the neighbour, who can lodge an appeal against it. Thus, it is usually best to discuss building plans affecting a party wall before proceeding.